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Spirituality of the Readings
The Third Sunday of Advent C
December 16, 2018
John Foley, SJ
Advent Song


St. Paul commends this in the Second Reading. “Brothers and sisters: rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, rejoice.” The word for rejoice in Latin is gaudete, so quite naturally this Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday.

Why all this glee? Are we finally getting a break from somber Advent? Yes. But there is more to it than that.

Remember that Advent is like a retreat that the worldwide Church is making. In this third week we will consider our lives in the context of the great beauty God has put in us and around us.

Can we let it in?

God’s gladness sings out joyfully at every instant, and his song is the earth, the galaxies, and the people.
A line in the First Reading puts this in stunning terms. Zephaniah actually says that the Lord “will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.” Have you ever in your life thought that God’s might break into song because of you? Because of you! Have you ever allowed your idea of God expand that far? Have you ever imagined God as one who sings you into existence?

In one of the books of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, the children are taken back to the very moment of creation. They hear the voice of Aslan (a Christ figure) singing into the wilderness. When the voice goes high, birds, clouds and blue sky appear. At a certain lengthy turn of phrase the mountains laboriously raise their heads. And a deep vibration bestows the depths of seas.

Creation seems to be made out of melody.

Alright, scientists have contended about the composition of the physical universe, particles or waves (I think that is the choice). Einstein and many others tried to reconcile these, but no luck. But if I could come even close to describing “string theory,” we might have a third contention.

Maybe you have seen TV shows about such a theory, on PBS or elsewhere, a model that some scholars actually do believe unites the two hypotheses. The supposed strings act a lot like sound does, like the vibrations that come forth from a violin string.

Instead of saying that particles or waves or uncertainty or whatever else are the basis of matter and force-fields and so on, these scientists instead postulate string-like particles: infinitesimal, ever changing, wriggling. By their dancing shapes these string circles generate (or constitute, or become, or whatever is the right way to say it) everything that is.

How about using this for an insight: God’s gladness sings out joyfully at every instant, and his song is the earth, the galaxies, the people, the plants and chemicals and soaring hawks and encircling planets, droplets of dew and heavy black holes, youthful beauties, ancient wisdoms, and everything else that exists!

In this case, we certainly are God’s song.

Sunday’s Gospel has people in long rows, gathering to be baptized, expecting the Savior who is to come. Each segment (the crowd, the tax collectors, the soldiers) asks John the Baptist the question: “Teacher, what should we do?”

  “Let your life sing,” he seems to answer.

Let your life sing.

Let your life be what it is: God’s joyous, interleaved and always consonant melody. It sounds outwards in deepest joy. Could this be your Advent?

Fr. John Foley, SJ, is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
Art by Martin (Steve) Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go